Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Mermaid, a Celiac, and a Jew walk into a bar... (Restaurant Review: Viva Herbal Pizza)

*Update 1/25/2014: I was out in the East Village last night and once again needed a piece of pizza.  I tried to go to Viva but it was closed.  As in no longer exists.  Don't worry though, because S'MAC is only a block away and they are open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Viva Herbal Pizza is a funny place.  Most of the stuff is vegan, everything is Kosher, and they have some gluten free options.  My manfriend and I walked in around 11:30 pm a few Saturdays ago after being out and needing a snack.  He got a regular cheese slice and I got a broccoli gluten free slice.  Shortly after 3 people walked in dressed as mermaids.  They were vegan.  While we were eating a bunch of 20 something Jewish couples came in.  They were Kosher.  So in this tiny restaurant late on a Saturday night was a really grumpy Asian man running the counter, 2 Mexicans working in the kitchen, 3 people dressed as mermaids eating vegan pizza, an interracial couple (us) eating gluten free pizza, and 10 conservative Jews eating kosher pizza.  It was an odd mix of people but this little place had something for everyone.  Only in New York.

It wasn't a great piece of gluten free pizza, but it was pretty decent and I was happy it was there.  Sometimes you just need some Saturday night pizza and Viva Natural is open until 2 am and conveniently located in the east village near Union Square.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Someone please teach me how to take pictures so I can stop stealing them from the internet.)
I love warm chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven.  Before going gluten free my baking specialty was chocolate chip cookies.  I say specialty, but really the recipe came from the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip package.  I was so nervous they wouldn't be the same that I avoided making them for the last 9 months since I went gluten free.

I finally made them last week though.  I decided to just follow the recipe like I always had while swapping the flour and hoping for the best.  Phew, they were still delicious.  Whether you need gluten free or just regular chocolate chip cookies, this recipe is so easy and really good. 

Anya's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies (i.e. Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (for gf I used 1 1/2 Bob's Red Mill and 3/4 rice flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 (12 ounce) package Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees 
2) Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl
3) Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large bowl
4) Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg
5) Gradually beat in flour mixture
6) Stir in chocolate chips
7) Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheet
8) Bake for 9 minutes (they say 9-11 minutes, I suggest 8-9 minutes to make them extra gooey)

Honestly, these cookies are amazing.  Go make them right now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Little Bit About Me and New York

This is basically the view from my apartment, but not exactly because I stole this from the internet.

Two years ago I was attacked on my street.  It was 3 am and I was walking home from being out in my cute Queens neighborhood.  I had made it almost all the way home when half a block from my house a man came out of an ally, punched me to the ground, and tried to take my purse.

A month later I discovered my apartment had bed bugs.  This was nearly as traumatizing as the attack and I didn't tell very many people.  I spent the next few months sleeping on the floor and living out of plastic bags.  The only slightly positive part of this experience was that it took some of my thoughts away from being attacked.

I spent much of 2009 not wanting to be in my apartment but being too afraid to leave it.  I also spent the first 4 months unemployed as I job searched post college in one of the most expensive cities in the world.  My senior year high school English teacher, Ms. Cravedi, had told me New York City would eat me alive.  She was a mean lady, but at this point in time she was correct.

My New Year's resolution for 2010 was "to maintain".  I wanted nothing to happen in my life, positive or negative.  I wanted to go to work at the job I had finally gotten and just live.  And that's what I did for the most part.  The only thing of note that happened was that I was having stomach aches everyday and was finally diagnosed with Celiac disease.  This was major and life changing, but quite frankly, I'd rather be gluten free for the rest of my life than be attacked or get bed bugs ever again.

Don't worry, this story turns positive.  Having basically maintained in 2010, I decided to make 2011 "the year of a better me".  By March I had quit my full time job that I hated for a part time job at a company I had interned for before and really loved.  I started this blog to help me cope with my Celiac diagnosis and as an outlet for all things gluten free to give my family and boyfriend a break from hearing about it all the time.  As of last Monday, I turned my part time coordinator job into a full time manager job.  I've been baking gluten free, exploring new restaurants, and trying to embrace this whole new way of life.  Things are finally starting to come together and I hope to continue bettering myself throughout the year and on.  Take that Ms. Cravedi.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In Hindsight...

Growing up in Vermont with my sort of hippie parents we were rarely allowed to eat sugar cereal.  We ate cereals like plain Cherrio's and Grape Nuts.  Grape Nuts is kind of an acquired taste, but I came to really enjoy it in the summer with fresh berries.  Last summer I had Grape Nuts with strawberries and blueberries for breakfast nearly every single day, and some days for dinner too!  Mmm.

This was also around the time when my stomach was hurting every day.  I haven't had any Grape Nuts since going gluten free because I assumed they were made of wheat.  Missing them in my summer breakfast routine, today I decided to check out the ingredients to see what exactly they are made of.  It turns out there are only four ingredients: Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Salt, and Dried Yeast.  Huh.  Considering gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley, half the ingredients in this cereal are toxic to my system.  This being said, it's no wonder I was sick to my stomach nearly everyday all last summer.  Good to know.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gluten Free Cocktail Party – Part II

A week or so ago I noticed that my post entitled Gluten Free Cocktail Party? had jumped dramatically to the number one read entry.  I found this surprising, but it occurred to me that perhaps people were looking for tips on either going to or hosting a gluten free cocktail party.

And then a few days ago, coincidentally, I found myself at another work event that started with a cocktail hour.  There were mac and cheese bites, crab cakes, fried zucchini, mini burger sliders, mini BLTs, lump crab on a cracker thing, and shrimp cocktail.  It all looked delicious, but the shrimp were the only thing I could eat – and is cocktail sauce even gluten free?

So again I was facing the problem of eating at a cocktail party, and there was no solution but to eat first, bring a snack, politely decline the waitresses on those mac and cheese bites, and enjoy the cocktails.  I wish I had better advice on attending these events, but the sad truth is that the vast majority of cocktail parties in our life will probably never cater to our gluten free needs.  (Except, I decided, my own wedding one day.  Dad, please start saving for the additional cost now.)

Less formal cocktail parties with friends or associates can be just as problematic.  If you are attending one of these events and feel comfortable, call the hostess a few days in advance to explain your allergy and see if you can bring a dish to share.  Then there will be at least one thing you know you can safely eat.  If you are a very conscientious host and want to be sure there is food for a gluten intolerant guest at your party, the best thing to do is call them first to chat.  If you do make something gluten free, make it first to prevent cross-contamination later.  If in doubt on any gluten free matter, ask.

If you are looking for a gluten free caterer in your area, do a simple google search.  I was surprised at how many I found.  Good luck.

Restaurant Review: Rhong-Tiam

I recently heard about a thai restaurant with a gluten free menu.  I love pad thai and have missed it since going gluten free.  I've had it a few times at Lilli and Loo (which has a large gluten free asian menu), but at $13 plus tax and tip, I don't like to go too often.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find it is only $8.50 at Rhong-Tiam.  I went tonight to try it out.  Not only was it cheap, but it was good.  Good and cheap gluten free pad thai?  They won me.

Much of Rhong-Tiam's menu is gluten free.  Not only that, but they use organic white meat chicken and grass fed hormone free beef.  The restaurant is tiny, and probably better for picking your food up or delivery.  I took mine home because it was so darn hot in there.  But if you are in the Gramercy area, or in need of some good cheap (gluten free) thai food, I recommend stopping by.  They are located at 31 East 21st Street, between Park Ave South and Broadway.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Gluten Free Albany

Remember that time a few months ago when I went to Albany for work?  No? Well, tonight I'm back at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Albany for work again.  But this time I ordered the pizza I wanted last time.  And it was amazing.  Not just good for gluten free, but really good.  The crust was chewy and delicious.

I got a small gluten free pizza with green peppers and mushrooms from Just Me! Pizza.  The crust is from Laurie's Gluten Free Goodness in Scotia, New York.  So good.

Ok ok, it was also $18.  This is ridiculous, but since my company is paying I'm not too worried about it (sorry again nonprofit company).

If you happen to be in Albany,  I recommend you try this pizza.  I don't think they have a website, but they are located at 52 South Pearl Street.  Or they have free delivery to the Holiday Inn - and probably everywhere else in Albany.